Whitmer’s plate already filling fast
The stuff is starting to pile up which will severly test Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s ability to multi-task just six months into the mission.
Governors over the years have had to walk and chew gum at the same time, but the list of challenges for this governor seems more challenging than the norm.
Here it is: A civil rights conflict in the Benton Harbor schools. The fate of Enbridge Inc.’s Line 5 oil pipeline in the Straits of Mackinac. Convincing reluctant Repubicans to cough up a yes vote on some level of a gas tax hike. Convincing those same R’s to write a new state budget that aligns with her proprieties that she promised to fulfill as a candidate. The clean-up of the increasingly sloppy no-fault car insurance deal that very few persons read before they voted — yeah, and now folks are finding out there are loopholes, vagaries, and other questionable provisions that are percolating into the public dialogue.
That’s more than enough for two or three governors.
The future of Line 5 under the Straits of Mackinac has the scariest impact on the state if it blows. The governor says she is losing sleep over some freeway bridge collapsing a la the tragedy in Minnesota years ago, but, if this pipleline erupts, a bridge collapse would pale in comparison and immediately become the governor’s worst nightmare a la the Flint water crisis for former Gov. Rick Snyder.
At this read, it looks like Whitmer and the Enbridge folks have decided to stop talking and start acting. The pipeline owners have dragged the governor into court in an attempt to force her to obey the policies set down by Mr. Snyder. Ms. Whitmer came into office and undid what he had done.
Meanwhile, she and state Attorney General Dana Nessel, who is chomping at the bit to shut the pipeline down yesterday, are on an apparent path to close the line sooner than later. The so-called tunnel solution may be in the mix, but is not looking very vialable at this point in time.
Over on the west side of the state, the perennially troubled Benton Harbor school system is flunking too many kids and its coffers are running drier every minute. The governor proposed to shutter the schools and move the students around to other schools in the area. The civil rights community is none too pleased. Who knows where that will lead?
Her struggle over state spending with the GOP is not unique, as that is the annual battle of the budget between the front office, which proposes where tax dollars should go, and the Legislature that decides where that will be.
They usually find a middle ground, but, sometimes, it can lead to a government shutdown, if you recall those horrid days during the Jennifer Granholm administration. No one is predicting that now, but the governor has warned “it could be a long summer” if she doesn’t get a road revenue increase, which is tied to other key elements of the budget, including K-12 education, higher education, and making sure the water supply is safe to drink.
So far on that front, she has nada.
But her budget director, Chris Kolb, thinks the R’s will finally cough up a gas tax hike because “we all know it” is needed, and there are under-the-radar signs that he may be right.
Cleaning up the no-fault law remains a work in progress as the trial lawyers, who were madder than a wet hen when their governor signed this thing, have offered a number of re-dos. Ultimately, they could take her into court on that puppy if the changes are not implemented.
And then there’s the fear of the unknown lurking out there regarding the one unforeseen issue that pops up out of nowhere. The PBB poisoning of Michigan during the Milliken administration is Exhibit A. The aforementioned Flint lead-in-the-water crisis remains the bane of Gov. Snyder, even out of office. Exhibit B.
As for Gov. Whitmer, with a full platter, she is hoping Exhibit C never appears on her watch.